|The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all. - Alexander Solzhenitsyn|
No. 88, Part II, 5 May 1995
This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part II is a compilation of news concerning East-Central and Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, and the CIS, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/OMRI.html EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN ITALY. Leonid Kuchma, at a meeting on 4 May at the Chamber of Trade and Industry in Milan, called for Italian support for Ukraine's efforts to sign a partnership and cooperation agreement with the European Union, Interfax reported. The previous evening in Rome, Kuchma and Italian Prime Minister Lamberto Dini signed a bilateral cooperation agreement. Kuchma at a news conference stressed that he came to Italy not asking for help but "suggesting cooperation." He noted that Italian investments make up only 2.5% of total foreign investments in Ukraine and that the European Commission's decision to cancel tariff preferences on textiles from Ukraine has discouraged Italian investments in the textile industry. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LUKASHENKA BELIEVES BELARUSIANS WANT INTEGRATION WITH RUSSIA. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, while attending the dedication on 3 May of a monument to victims of the largest tank battle of World War II at the Russian village of Prokhorovka, said that 80-90% of the people will express support for closer integration with Russia in the 14 May referendum, Interfax reported. He added that they will vote for making Russian one of the official state languages. He also said that whether integration becomes a reality depends on Russia, which still owes Belarus 300 billion rubles for military hardware. Asked if Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus could form a single state, Lukashenka said: "This depends on the peoples of these states. If everything is entrusted to politicians it will hardly be achieved." -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. INFLATION DOWN IN BELARUS IN APRIL. Government experts have said the rate of inflation in the first three weeks of April was 8.4%. They predict that the rate for the whole month will not exceed 12%, Interfax reported on 3 May. This is a significant decline from rates of 39.8% in January, 33.8% in February, and 19.4% in March. The prices for services rose by 10.5%, while prices for food increased by 8% and for manufactured goods by 8.1%. The lower inflation rate is primarily due to the strict monetary policy pursued by the National Bank of Belarus, which has not issued a single credit since the start of 1995. The 123.3% rate for the first quarter of 1995 was the highest among all CIS countries and more than double the rates for the same period in Ukraine (59.9%), Azerbaijan (47.4%), and Russia (42.2%), respectively. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN CITIZENS IN ESTONIA. Russian Ambassador to Estonia Aleksandr Tromifov told Estonian Interior Minister Edgar Savisaar on 3 March that 71,000 people currently residing in Estonia have been granted Russian citizenship, BNS reported the following day. Savisaar expressed concern that the continuing growth of Russian citizenry may put domestic stability in jeopardy. The main focus of the meeting, also attended by Citizenship and Migration Department Director-General Andres Kollist, was solving problems in the fields of citizenship, migration, borders, and crime. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN RADAR BUILDING DEMOLISHED IN LATVIA. A team of U.S. experts from Controlled Demolition Inc. blew up a 19-story unfinished radar tower at Skrunda on 4 May, Western agencies reported. The U.S. government paid for the bulk of the $7 million costs of demolishing the structure, called "The Monster" by locals. President Guntis Ulmanis, speaking at the ceremonies, noted that "though this building was built in peace time, for Latvia it was a symbol of occupation, militarism, and confrontation." Russia is allowed to maintain an older early warning radar station at Skrunda until 1998. Jorgen Andersen, the OSCE representative for control over implementation of the accord on the Skrunda radar station, was denied access to the radar station. Latvia sent an official protest to Moscow. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON INVESTMENT IN LITHUANIA. About 90 foreign guests--including representatives from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and several European Union countries--attended a conference in Vilnius on 4 May devoted to acquainting Western investors with Lithuania's state investment program, BNS and Interfax reported. Total direct foreign investment to date in Lithuania ($170 million) is considerably lower than in Estonia ($474 million) and Latvia ($327 million). Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius said that funds for investment will rise from 2.4% of GDP in 1993 to 5% in 1997. The Lithuanian government will primarily invest in the energy and transport industries as well as in environmental protection and health care projects. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH PARTY STAGES ANTI-TAX PROTEST. Polish media reported that on 4 May, the last day for submitting personal income tax forms in Poland, the Conservative Coalition party (not represented in the Sejm) staged an anti-tax protest in Warsaw. It claimed that for every zloty earned, only 0.35 is left after taxes and obligatory insurance. "There is no need for the state expenses to increase," the Conservative Coalition leader Kazimierz Ujazdowski commented. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN POLITICIAN ON POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER. Sergei Baburin, leader of the Russian Public Union, has accused Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski of attempting to revise Ukraine and Belarus's western frontiers. Baburin said that Bartoszewski, in his recent address to the German parliament (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 May 1995), was seeking to form a strategic Polish-German alliance against Russia. A Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman said such accusations are absurd, Polish media reported on 5 May. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECH PREMIER DISCUSSES NATO EXPANSION WITH CLINTON. President Bill Clinton told Vaclav Klaus on 4 May that he supports the expansion of NATO and that the Czech Republic is a leading candidate for membership, Czech media reported. After talks in the White House, Klaus told reporters that Clinton assured him he will take a firm stand on the issue when he meets with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow next week. Clinton stressed "the word 'process' because it's not a matter of a concrete date but of getting the process under way," Klaus said. The Czech premier also held talks with Secretary of State Warren Christopher, which centered on developments in Croatia. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. CZECH COALITION PARTY'S CAUCUS SPLITS. Five Christian Democratic Party (KDS) deputies on 4 May split away from the party's caucus to form their own group in protest over the proposed merger of the KDS with the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). The five, who constituted half of the KDS representatives in the parliament, included parliament deputy chairman Pavel Tollner. They named their new caucus KDS I. Tollner said the deputies were willing to work with the ODS but not to be integrated into it. He added that they had substantial support within the party for their action. KDS leader Ivan Pilip said he was not informed of the action beforehand but learned about it from Czech Radio. Tollner was stripped of his post as a KDS deputy chairman following the announcement of the split, Rude pravo reported. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAKIA READY TO ABOLISH CLEARING SYSTEM WITH CZECHS. Marian Jusko, deputy chairman of the Slovak National Bank, said on 4 May that Slovakia was ready to "switch to a different trade arrangement" with the Czech Republic, if that country goes ahead with its plans to abolish the clearing system with Slovakia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 May 1995). He said abolishing the system "should not cause any problems for Slovakia." But Mikulas Dzurinda, economic expert for the opposition Christian Democratic Movement, said he was afraid that the abolition of the clearing system would put pressure on Slovakia's hard-currency reserves and adversely affect Slovak exporters. Meanwhile, Czech Finance Minister Ivan Kocarnik, in an interview with Lidove noviny on 5 May, said the clearing system with Slovakia could be abolished at the earliest in September, depending on how quickly the government and parliament acts. He added that the Slovak government continues to put off a proposed meeting between Prime Ministers Vaclav Klaus and Vladimir Meciar to discuss the subject. -- Jiri Pehe and Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIAN INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION. Figures issued by the Central Statistical Office on 4 May show that Hungary's industrial output in February fell by 5.4% compared with January but was up 10.2% on February 1994, Western news agencies reported. Total output was worth $2.326 billion at current prices, and sales totaled $2.257 billion in February, up 9.8% on the previous February. Since last February, the output of the machine and metallurgy industries have increased by 40% and 18%, respectively. Exports grew by 36.7%, with 72% and 52% increases in industrial machinery and metallurgy exports. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE WHERE ARE THE MISSING 1,000 SERBS? International media reported on 5 May that Croatian forces completed their occupation of the divided west Slavonian city of Pakrac the previous day. Some accounts indicate there was no resistance and that the Serbs readily surrendered, while others suggest that some Serbs panicked and put up a last-minute struggle. Croatian officials arrested five Serbian leaders as suspected war criminals. An additional 800-1,000 people were sent off in buses to unknown destinations, despite protests by UN officials who wanted to evacuate the Serbs to a place of their own choosing. Some Croats told the UN that the Serbs were "chetniks." Other reports noted that drunken Croatian soldiers were systematically looting Serb-held properties and carting off the goods in army trucks. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. POLITICAL UPDATE ON CROATIAN CRISIS. The UN Security Council passed a resolution on 4 May condemning Croatian behavior in Pakrac as well as the Serbian missile attacks on Zagreb, which hit the city center, the airport area, and the poor district of Kozari Bok. The council also called on Croatian troops to return to their original positions but did not say what the UN would do if the soldiers stay put. President Franjo Tudjman, however, told international media that he hoped the Serbs had learned a lesson and would now accept a political settlement. He added that he wants especially to reopen the Zagreb-Knin-Split railway line soon. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic attended a "unity meeting" with Krajina Serb officials and told CNN that "we are going to defend our people with all of our means." But it nonetheless seems clear that Pale has its hands full at home and that its ability to aid Knin is limited. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CROATIAN-MUSLIM PARLIAMENT MEETS IN SARAJEVO. Legislators representing the year-old federation began a three-day session on 4 May to discuss its future. The Croats and Muslims accuse each other of being responsible for the failure to launch joint institutions, especially in the military and the police. The Croatian police refuse to accept lower Bosnian government wages, for example, while the Muslims accuse some Croatian leaders of being war criminals. Elsewhere in the Bosnian capital, AFP said that sniper fire was on the rise, while, in an unusual twist, drunken French peacekeepers celebrating their regiment's annual feast day threw grenades that killed a Muslim soldier. In Maglaj, Serbs wounded six British troops, which prompted the UN command to issue a "strong protest" to the local Serbian headquarters. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN VOLUNTEERS OFF TO THE FRONT. Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) and accused war criminal, has dispatched the first contingents of Serbian volunteers to defend Krajina, Nasa Borba reported on 5 May. The precise number of volunteers who have already left is being kept secret by the SRS. The daily observed that the notorious leader of the paramilitary "Tigers", Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, is gathering his own volunteers for service on the front lines. In other news, international agencies reported that Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias is scheduled to arrive in Belgrade on 5 May to meet with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Discussions between the two leaders are expected to focus on the most recent military developments in the former Yugoslavia and their possible impact on prospects for peace. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. MASS TRIALS IN KOSOVO. Seventy-seven ethnic Albanian former policemen went on trial in Prizren and Gnjilan on 3 May, international agencies reported. These latest trials bring the number of former policemen charged with creating a shadow Kosovar police force to 88. So far, 16 have been sentenced to up to six years in prison and 159 arrested. Defense lawyers say there is not enough evidence to back the charges and have argued that the trials are political. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE IN OFFING. Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, following a meeting of leaders of the major coalition partner, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), said on 4 May that the government is to be reshuffled. The affected portfolios are culture and trade, Radio Bucharest reported the same day. PDSR spokesman Dumitru Paslaru said the reshuffle was necessary "to give effect to the four- party protocol," Reuters reported. The protocol was signed last January by members of the current ruling coalition (the PDSR and the nationalist Party of National Unity of Romania), the extremist Greater Romania Party and Socialist Labor Party. The Romanian media report that in addition to the two ministries mentioned by Vacaroiu, other portfolios likely to change hands are relations with the parliament as well as youth and sports (both incumbents have been appointed to other posts). -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN LIBERAL PARTIES TO UNITE. The Standing Bureau of the National Liberal Party and the Executive Committee of the Liberal Political Group (a formation that split from the Liberal Party '93 in March when that group withdrew from the Democratic Convention of Romania [CDR]) have decided to merge on 13 May, Radio Bucharest reported. That day marks the 120th anniversary of the setting up of the National Liberal Party. The leaders of the two formations expressed the hope that the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention (which is also a member of the CDR) will join the merger. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIA PROBES FORMER SECURITATE OFFICERS OVER SMUGGLING. Reuters reported on 3 May that police in Timisoara are investigating two members of the former secret police on suspicion of oil smuggling to neighboring rump Yugoslavia. Radu Tinu and Valentin Ciuca were detained the previous day on charges of smuggling some 1,000 tons of diesel oil into Serbia in 1992 in violation of UN-imposed sanctions. Tinu and Ciuca were tried and acquitted in connection with attempts to suppress the popular revolt that erupted in Timisoara in December 1989 and led to the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu's regime. They later set up a private company specializing in trading oil and cement. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. STRIKE MORATORIUM EXTENDED IN MOLDOVA. A protocol extending the moratorium on the strike by students and teachers was signed in Chisinau by the strikers' committee and the government commission set up to deal with their demands, Interfax reported on 4 May. According to the protocol, no more protests will take place before 6 September. The month-long strike was suspended on 15 April after President Mircea Snegur submitted to the parliament a legislative initiative to change the designation of the country's official language from "Moldovan" to "Romanian," thus moving to meet one of the strikers' main demands. The Moldovan government has already met some of their demands of an economic nature and promised to continue to do so. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. FIRST 100 DAYS OF BULGARIA'S SOCIALIST GOVERNMENT. Most Bulgarian newspapers on 4 May published critical assessments of the first 100 days of the Socialist-led government. The independent 24 chasa wrote that the government has done "nothing for the people," while Standart said the government's plans were "still unclear" and that there are more problems than before. The Socialist daily Duma, for its part, focused on the opposition Union of Democratic Forces, saying that its "fight against 'communism'" only proves the narrow horizon of its politicians. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIA TO APPLY FOR EU MEMBERSHIP IN 1996. Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov has said Bulgaria will apply for membership in the European Union at the time of the EU's intergovernmental conference next year, which is to discuss further moves toward integration under the Maastricht treaty. Videnov made the statement at a meeting with EU Commissioner Hans Van den Broek, who said EU enlargement was "a historic necessity in order to correct the consequences of the division of Europe." Van den Broek also met with President Zhelyu Zhelev, international agencies reported on 4 May. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. 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